Friday, December 20, 2013

Mormon culture

Not all Mormon communities are created equal. Perhaps the most common division of Mormons cuts between Utah Mormons and Mormons everywhere else in the world (also referred to as "the field"). Members from the field can't stand Utah Mormons. They say Utah Mormons are unbearable sanctimonious jerks who only see the world in black and white terms. The implication is that the Church is better outside of Utah. Better because the members are more authentic and accepting, more Christ-like. 

(Members outside the U.S. tend to be thought of a bit like merit badges.)

Utah Mormons naturally hate hearing how they suck and how they make the Church insufferable, so they often find a scapegoat for all the shitty Mormon behavior that makes hanging out with other Mormons such a chore. Inside Utah all annoying aspects of Mormon culture are said to have been bred in Utah County (also known as ”Happy Valley” or "the Bubble"), where all the asshole Mormons live in blissful ignorance of the real world and the real Gospel. 

But Utah County Mormons aren't about the accept responsibility for making Mormon culture awful. Hell no! They're not the ones with sticks up their asses! It's those self-righteous know-it-alls over at BYU who are dragging the good name of Mormons into the sewers of arrogance and bad taste.

It's BYU culture, not Mormon culture, that we all hate, right? Kind of, unless you're at BYU, then you have to find someone else to blame, like for example the RMs (returned missionaries) who haven't quite landed yet. They're still trying to proselytize even though everyone's already Mormon and rope you into early morning scripture study or late night hymn singing! They get all touchy about how the Spirit retreats when someone swears or if the person they're dating tries to slip them the tongue! They're ridiculous! No one understands why the Church hasn't ex-communicated them yet.

This all makes total sense unless you're an RM attending BYU and you still hate the culture you're immersed in.

My doubts about belonging to Mormon culture hit hard during my final years at BYU. Maybe it was something about squabbling over caffeinated beverages for the billionth time or listening to another rant about how not watching R-rated movies is a commandment. No, it wasn't just that. Maybe I just couldn't handle the singles wards anymore, the desperate males struggling to establish themselves as an Alpha and the desperate but contemptuous females all calculating how to line up yet another silly Mormon-style date with that special "one", their "eternal companion", who fortunately happens to live in same ward boundary. Maybe it was just Church culture in general. I'm thinking of the suits and ties, the meaty handshakes, the laughably irrelevant insights to certain verses of scripture, the camaraderie found in the persecution complex, the vocal disgust of everything pertaining to "the world", the delight in leader veneration, and the drive at ladder climbing. Maybe it was because I was finding myself turning anti-war and hated the rhetoric of being a soldier in Christ's army. Maybe it was because I was realizing more and more that I identified as a feminist and therefore qualified as an enemy of the Church. Maybe it was my disgust for the cult of virginity perpetuated within Mormonism under the guise of “chastity”, "cleanliness", "virtue", and "honor". Maybe it was the parameters Mormonism had set on science by suggesting it's not true science if it contradicts Mormon doctrine.  Maybe it was the patriotic zeal infused in the Book of Mormon's depiction of the Americas as the most promised of promised lands. Maybe it was the overall defensiveness members feel toward outsiders and outside opinions. Maybe it was the overall defensiveness members feel toward each other.

Who or what started all this crap? Who could I blame for all of these deplorable aspects of my culture? The vocal nut job members of the Church? Misguided local leaders? Prophets speaking as men? Ancient unenlightened traditions? Human nature? God?

Could I see myself living happily within this culture? How long could I hold out?

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